Points to Ponder
Electioneering and Communalism
A First Point:
In these days of electoral campaigning, Paul Bérenger of the MMM and Jocelyn Grégoire of the Front des Creoles Mauriciens have both been accusing, directly and indirectly, the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance of practising communalism.
I said earlier that the real communalists are to be found elsewhere. Now I am more than ever convinced of the truth of that statement. And I take comfort in the opinion of the local Amnesty International spokesman, a gentleman by the name of Lindley Couronne.
This is what I read about Paul Bérenger: “Il condamne fermement les propos de M. Bérenger qui sont de nature à attiser la haine raciale et religieuse.”
And in so far as Jocelyn Grégoire is concerned, Lindley Couronne says: “De même l’organisation (i.e.
Amnesty International) qui entend veiller au dérapage communaliste pendant la campagne électorale, à travers son communiqué dit désapprouver la démarche du Président du Front des Créoles Mauriciens” about the representation concerning jobs for Creoles in the public sector.
You really come to know how politicians think and what type of persons they are during election time especially when they are on the campaign trail, addressing public as well as private meeting meetings. They can put up appearances at other times but during election time they are often caught with their pants down.
Let us see how some of our politicians have behaved in the recent past. Paul Bérenger has used foul language against Xavier Duval and others during a meeting. I find it difficult to understand why Xavier Duval has not taken responded in a befitting manner. Maybe later.
Pravind Jugnauth has used some insulting language against Cassam Uteem, his wife and his son Reza Uteem. Of all people, he should never have used such language towards somebody he should respect. Is it not possible to limit his criticism to the political ideas expressed by Reza Uteem? I have now been told that he has recently apologized for what he said about the Uteem family. So much the better for him and this is what was expected of him.
I have recently been told that Jocelyn Grégoire had an appointment to meet Navin Ramgooolam. But surprisingly, he chose to get admitted in a private clinic. People have said that that was an easy way to avoid meeting Navin Ramgoolam for reasons best known to himself. What is the truth behind all this? I do not know. But religion teaches me to speak the truth.
Paul Bérenger’s angst
A Second Point: Paul Bérenger is very angry with the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation. He is dead against Dan Callikan, the Director General of the MBC and against some of the employees. He says that that the MBC is not acting in a manner that will be conducive to a free and fair election in so far as the opposition is concerned.
The MMM has reported the matter to the Electoral Supervisory Commission. Very Good. But then where I do not agree with the MMM is when it has told the ESC that it has to record what the MBC shows on the television screen as well as what is broadcast on the radio every day about the performance of the MMM during their meetings and addresses. To me, it looked as if Paul Bérenger is giving orders to the members of the ESC as to how they should do their job. And in fact they are being told what their job entails. If the MMM thinks that the MBC is not doing its job properly, the evidence for that must be gathered by the MMM and produced to the relevant enforcing authority, and not ask the ESC to gather evidence on its behalf.
But then, the MMM goes much further. Paul Bérenger says that if the MBC will not give a better coverage to his party, it will alert the national and international organisations of how the MBC is not acting in a fair and reasonable manner. Among the international organisations, Paul Bérenger has mentioned are, inter alia, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie. The MBC has to take a decision as to its future course of action and conduct. It says and maintains that it has never, at any moment, acted in a discriminatory manner vis-à-vis any of the stakeholders. The MMM has seized the body that supervises among others the MBC on a complaint of not giving equal or fair treatment when compared to the treatment given to the Prime Minister and the Alliance Sociale. The matter was heard and argued before the Board and the findings clearly show that the MMM had no reason whatsoever to complain. The MMM lost on all the points that it had raised. Maybe this is the reason for which MMM is not willing to go before that Board. Paul Bérenger and his friends prefer to go before the ESC, maybe thinking they will have a different kind of hearing.
What I do not understand is this threat of the MMM that it will bring the matter to the attention of the national and international organizations. I would have thought that it has no remedy locally for an alleged wrong committed in the country, that is why it has decided to bring it to the attention of the international organisations, but if the MMM is sure that its rights are being breached, it should not just threaten. It must do what it considers right in the circumstances and it must do it immediately. Why wait?
Paul Bérenger has already started saying that the election is not being conducted in a free and fair manner and so the election result would not be valid. This again shows that the MMM has already started looking for some raisons farfelues to say that they cannot accept the results of the election. The MMM will then say “we told you so”. I am sure that after the results of the election are proclaimed, and if Paul Bérenger and the MMM turn out to be the losers, they will hold a press conference or better still, perhaps they might issue a communiqué which would read as follows:
“The MMM says, and it has the necessary evidence to prove it, that the election has not been conducted in a free and fair manner and in conformity with the laws of the country. The MBC has acted as an agent of the Alliance de l’Avenir and this has helped the party. The Alliance de l’Avenir has been in breach of the laws in that its members have spent more than they are entitled to and they have promised jobs and other benefits to the electors. In the circumstances, the MMM does not accept the results of the election. The election must be declared null and void and a fresh election should be held within the shortest possible delay.”
Of Berenger’s “Rasoir” and “Pagla Mamou”
A Third Point: I am scared at the first team of the MMM. We have, to start with, Rasoir, followed by Pagla Mamou and so many others with the funny names but which carry some sort of innuendo. They have been given these names by no other than the MMM itself, but now they are all leaders of the Alliance du Coeur, and they will be responsible for running the government in case the MMM wins the election. We have also Reza Uteem, a newcomer in politics who will occupy the third place in the hierarchy in the government. I am not saying that Reza Uteem is not an intelligent person, but without the necessary experience, Paul Bérenger is doing a disservice to him. But what can he do in the circumstances? He does not have any politician of the Muslim community in the MMM with the necessary experience and with the necessary charisma. Paul Bérenger has to fall back on somebody without any experience.
My reading, as at present, is that Jocelyn Grégoire is determined to take the Creole community, or rather what he calls the Creoles, in a political ghetto. He criticizes Navin Ramgoolam leader of the Labour Party and of the Alliance de l’Avenir, Rashid Beebeejaun, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Xavier Duval leader of the PMSD and Pravind Jugnauth leader of the MSM but at the same time he chooses not to criticize Paul Bérenger the leader of the MMM, but rather he praises him. Jocelyn Grégoire says that he is not here to give any “consigne de vote” to the Creoles, but just go back to what he has been saying during the last two weeks and you’ll see clearly which party the priest (politician?) is backing.
Everybody is predicting that the Alliance de l’Avenir is sure to win the election, but it looks as if Jocelyn Grégoire wants his people to vote for the Alliance du Coeur. I remember that at one time he said that he was against an alliance between the Labour Party and the MSM and that if such an alliance were to materialize, the Creoles would against it. It looks like we have started to face such a situation. But what is the reason for this? I do not know, maybe they would prefer to see a divided community.
If in fact the Alliance de l’Avenir were to win the next election and the Creole community would vote against this alliance, who would be the losers? If the MMM candidates in constituencies nos 1, 17, 19 and 20 would be elected against the candidates of the Alliance de l’Avenir, it would mean that the electorate has voted for the MMM, and we know that in these constituencies, the Creole electorate is in a majority. Can and would Jocelyn Grégoire prevent such a situation from arising? Of course not, for obvious reasons, known to everybody.
The MMM says that it is ready to introduce Creole as a medium of instruction in the schools. If the Creoles want to have this, then nobody can or should object. Besides, the Fédération des Creoles Mauriciens has made of this subject its cheval de bataille for this election. However, in so far as I am concerned, this will contribute a little more to throw the Creoles, especially from the lower income group, into an intellectual getto.
When I started school, I did not know any other language than the pure form of Bhojpuri. And at home, we have always spoken that language. But this has not hampered me in my studies, be it English or French or any subject whatsoever. Those persons who are supposedly fighting for Creole should know what they are doing. But the question is, do they?
As the MMM has decided to introduce Creole in the schools, may I ask this political party what it thinks of giving like treatment to Bhojpuri? If it thinks that is in need of an equal treatment, I am asking the MMM when and how it will introduce Bhojpuri in the schools, both as a language that will be taught and as a medium of instruction? If it will not give an answer then the conclusion would be that the MMM is against Bhojpuri and especially against those who are of this culture.
Now that both alliances have said that they are for the introduction of Creole in the schools and I have put to the MMM what place they want to give to Bhojpuri in our school system, it is now the turn of the Alliance de l’Avenir to answer the same question. Is it prepared to give the same treatment to Bhojpuri as it is willing to give to Creole? If the Alliance de l’Avenir will not answer this point, I shall conclude that this party also is against Bhojpuri.
Trinidad and Tobago goes to the polls
A Fourth Point: And politics as practiced by other people
The general election will be held in Mauritius on the 5th of May next, so much the better I would say. But election would not be held during that month only in Mauritius, but it will also be held in the United Kingdom, where it is scheduled for the 7th. Campaigning is in full swing and we can observe the difference in the method of campaigning in the UK and in Mauritius.
But I will go further. An election is scheduled to be held in Trinidad and Tobago as well. Nomination day has been fixed for the 3rd of May and polls will be held on the 24th. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Prime Minister Patrick Manning has called for a mid-term election, as the previous election was held just a little more than two and a half years ago. The reason for calling such an early election is because the leader of the opposition Kamla Persad Bissessar had put down a motion of censure on the government and rather than face the motion fairly and squarely, the Prime Minister decided to request the President of the Republic to dissolve Parliament and the date for the election has been fixed.
As in Mauritius, so in Trinidad. Two major parties or coalition of parties will be fighting to form the next government. There is the party that was in government, that is the PNM, which is headed by Patrick Manning. It is the party composed of essentially the Afro-Trinidadians, with some Indians as well. On the other hand there is the party that was in the opposition, made up essentially of Indo-Trinidadians, with some Afro-Trinidadians as well. This party was till lately headed by Basdeo Panday, the charismatic leader of long standing. Now the party is headed by Kamla Prasad Bissessar, who learnt her politics from Basdeo Panday himself. Then there was a splinter group from the UNC itself and that group had formed a formal party under the name of COP. During the last election, the two parties, the UNC and the COP could not agree to joining into a coalition, with the result that they had fought the election separately and it was no surprise that both parties lost. The UNC won about 15 seats out of about 40 and the COP did not get any seat.
This time both parties have come together to fight the election in an alliance and they have a very good chance to come out winners.
The method of campaigning in Trinidad is more or less like what is done here, with lots of buntings and flags, public and private meetings everywhere, but above all, campaigning and voting is more concentrated along racial lines, much more than here.
Let us wait for the results of the elections here to start with, then those in the United Kingdom and finally, those in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.